Football fans have been known to do some pretty outrageous stuff for the love of their team. But how many can say they’ve moved cross-country for them?
That’s exactly what Seahawks uber-fan Gene Hushak did. The Connecticut native’s love affair with the team started when he was a teenager, after watching the Hawks play the New York Jets on TV. He first visited Seattle in 1994, just to see them play at home.
“Something inside said to me: ‘At some point in your life, you’re going to live here,’ ” Hushak said.
That point came in 2012, when he loaded up a truck with all his possessions and made the move to Seattle.
Well, not to Seattle proper. Hushak settled south of the city, in Auburn. He didn’t realize at the time, but it was a perfect choice.
That’s because the love for the Seahawks runs deeper in South King County than anywhere else. Market-research data from Nielsen shows that more than one in three (35%) adult residents here describe themselves as “very interested” in the National Football League (NFL), easily the highest in our region.
No surprise to Hushak. In fact, he expected the percentage would be even higher.
“When you come south, you’ve still got that ‘everyman,’ middle-class, blue-collar kind of person, and that’s what football is — it’s Americana,” Hushak said. “When you start going north to Seattle — and I don’t mean this in a bad way — a lot of people are more technology based … and they’ve been pulled in from all around the world.”
According to the data, the level of interest in pro football in Seattle is nearly half what it is in South King County. Just 19% of adults in the city (plus Shoreline and Vashon) describe themselves as very interested in the NFL. Compared with the city, the concentration of fans is also much greater on the Eastside (31%), Pierce and Snohomish counties (both 30%), and Kitsap County (25%).
In the Seattle-Tacoma market area overall, a little less than 30% of adults say they are very interested in the NFL — that pencils out to a projected 1.27 million people. That number tends to fluctuate, depending on the Seahawks’ performance. When the team won the Super Bowl in 2014, the fair-weather fans were out in full force — more than 40% of adults described themselves as very interested in the NFL that year.
The NFL team with the highest level of support on a consistent basis is the Green Bay Packers. In the Green Bay, Wisconsin, and nearby Milwaukee markets, around half of the adult population express the highest level of interest in the NFL — and that’s in recent years, when the team didn’t win the Super Bowl.
According to the data, football fans in this market are demographically pretty similar to the population as a whole. They have a median household income of $78,600, which is almost exactly the regional median. NFL fans are a little older, and a bit more likely to be married and to own their home. They are somewhat less likely to have graduated from college.
There is one major demographic difference between hard-core football fans and the general populace, and you can probably guess what it is: Football fans are more likely to be male. While women make up about half of the population, they represent 35% of fans in our region in the latest data.
Nielsen surveyed almost 4,000 people in our area from August 2018 to August 2019.
Incidentally, the data shows that the greatest concentration of ardent Mariners fans is also in South King County, while the lowest — again — is in the city of Seattle.
Does that mean that city folks are simply less inclined to care about professional sports?
No, it just depends on the sport.
According to Nielsen, the city — not the suburbs — is the hotbed of fandom for the Sounders, our Major League Soccer team.